Critical Consensus: Brink

Media split on Bethesda's new shooter, as sites refuse to provide early reviews

Multiplayer-focused games are an already difficult prospect for reviewers at the best of time, but Bethesda's Brink appears to be more so than most. Despite being released today in North America and on Friday in Europe at least two publications have refused to review the game, citing concerns over the impact of a forthcoming patch and the general inability to test the game in the wild.

Developed by UK studio Splash Damage, Brink is similar in concept to earlier first person shooters Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. The objective and team-based action is multiplayer focused by nature, but due to the problems on PlayStation Network reviewers have only had access to the Xbox 360 version prior to launch - with Bethesda not sending out copies of the PC version until today.

One of the highest profile sites to refuse to review the game is Game Informer, which claims that due to the multiplayer focus, "it's hard to accurately critique the play experience without spending a considerable amount of time with the maps and the community. The game is also due to receive a significant patch this week, and we're not comfortable handing down a verdict or talking about the technical performance until we experience the game as a consumer would if they purchased the game."


Website Ars Technica came to a similar conclusion, although went further by suggesting that in its pre-release state the game "is a mess, and not worth your money".

Reviewer Ben Kuchera suggested, that "It's going to be a good long time before I can download the PC version of the game and tell you what I think. In my opinion, that's a good thing. Let's give the game some time to breathe, to get some patches, and then we'll revisit it and see what has happened. There are hints of a good, and maybe great, game here. Nothing would be better than to have the technical issues melt away to expose the fun underneath."

Of those sites which have reviewed the game, Eurogamer has been one of the most positive, with an 8/10 score from Simon Parkin.

"Brink doesn't distinguish between single-player and multiplayer, or co-op and competitive play; it's all part of this campaign. You join seven others (players, bots or a mixture, depending on your preference) working to complete a set of linear objectives (breaching doors, stealing data and escorting valuable cargo) while the opposing team attempts to thwart your plans. You can choose whether your opponents are human or AI, too."

Despite his enjoyment of the game Parkin highlights issues raised by almost all reviews: "There's some concern that Brink will fail to provide ongoing incentives over the long haul. It's telling that the achievement for developing a character to Rank 5 is titled "Time to start a new character". It won't take too long to max out one character's abilities, leaving you with the sense that you've 'won' everything the game has to offer."

"Nonetheless, Brink is an exceptional team shooter, smart, supremely well balanced and with a unique, exciting art style," he concludes.

I love this game, I truly do, but I have a list of agitated questions for the developers as long as my arm

Jim Sterling, Destructoid

Destructoid's Jim Sterling also gave the game a mostly positive score of 75, although he noted a number of instances of unbalanced maps and considerable problems with online reliability.

"While some of the levels have a more even chance of success for either side, I have a feeling there are certain stages that players are going to eventually refuse to play, rage-quitting should they find themselves on the wrong side," he claims.

His enthusiasm for the underlying gameplay is obvious though: "The true tragedy of this is that Brink is, by and large, utterly brilliant fun. The combat is tight, with impressive balance applied to the game's many weapons and cool first-person parkour elements, which allow players to run frantically around some beautiful environments. The game's objective system, with multiple missions that players can select at will, makes for a game that offers more choice than the average FPS. More importantly, Brink features incredibly fulfilling class-based gameplay that is a pleasure to sink one's teeth into, with every class feeling important, effective, and perfectly tuned to fulfill its role on the battlefield."

"My frustration with this game lies within this very brilliance and how it's juxtaposed with bizarre ideas such as grossly imbalanced multiplayer and the imparting of almost all content within the first few hours of play," he concludes. "I love this game, I truly do, but I have a list of agitated questions for the developers as long as my arm."

Although IGN's Peter Eykemans gave the game a score of 6.0 his review was largely negative, suggesting in his opening statement that "Brink borders on fun, but its repetition, lack of depth, and graphical problems keep it from being a real contender."

As with most reviewers he praised the game's art style, but criticised some of the technical elements of the game: "During play, Brink suffers from pixelated lines and a murky look, making for a downright ugly game at times. Textures often fail to load properly, and with colored outlines on your teammates and the enemy, the detail in everyone's dress is obscured most of the time."

"An online shooter needs variety, depth, and addictiveness to succeed over the long term. Brink might find a niche with some hardcore fans, but it isn't for everyone. I'd love to see more of the parkour gameplay, but one mechanic isn't enough to carry an entire game. Brink has heart, but the overall package is lacking," he said in his summary.

Joystiq reviewer Griffin McElroy was one of the most scathing so far, giving the game only 2 out of 5 stars, with his opening description insisting that, "any innovation Brink brings to the table is mired in its habitually imbalanced nature, as well as its sometimes stupefyingly flawed gameplay design."


"Perhaps Brink's greatest sin is its omission of a traditional party-based matchmaking system, using instead a system designed to automatically populate single-player matches with real-life players," says McElory. "It achieves this goal well, but with one caveat: The single-player experience is absolutely abysmal, and should be avoided at all costs."

"But an update to address Brink's connectivity issues would only fix the most superficial of its flaws. There's something inherently topsy-turvy with its core game design: Despite its focus on rapidly-changing objectives, it rewards mindless dog-piling on the primary goal," he concludes.

"It punishes players who invest in a single class that resonates with them. Its moments of triumph are unsatisfying, and far outnumbered by its moments of crushing frustration. At every turn, it doesn't just settle for mediocrity - it runs towards it with ramming speed."

Brink is published by Bethesda and on sale now in the U.S. and this Friday in the UK.

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Latest comments (12)

Kevin Selles8 years ago
I think it’s sad that most game publications choose to participate in the rather popular ‘review race’. Bethesda (or any other company) sets an embargo date four days away and everybody decides to rush and meet the deadline in order to be first. Bethesda notified reviewers that a patch will be released on day one, but that didn’t seem to make a difference since almost everybody decided to judge the current state of the game anyway.

It’s not fair for the publisher, the developers or the readers to review a game after so few hours of gameplay. Brink, as well as any other game with heavy online features, needs many hours to fully grasp what the game has to offer. Gametrailers’ review clearly shows them playing against bots, not humans. How on earth is that a fair review? Brink is a game that relies on team work, and I see none of that in the reviews published today.

Game Informer and Ars Technica’s position on this matter are admirable and something other publications should take note of.

This reminds me of Sterling’s review of SOCOM 4 after an hour of online gameplay.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 8 years ago
I agree Kevin and I think this is a problem with reviewing all online-centric games. What I would like to see is publications take a couple of weeks post-launch to play the game and then write the review, with a really clear picture of the game's performance and foibles in the public space, rather than limited and restricted press access that takes place before the game's release that may not be representative of the game's launch state.

In a similar situation, I think MAG was given a rough ride in reviews (I know this is going back 16 months-odd now), and it's so broad and in-depth I think reviewers should have played it for at least 15 to 20 hours post-launch before trying to fairly analyse it.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game8 years ago
@Kevin. I disagree. People read reviews because they want to know if their £45/$60 is a good investment, or they are tossing money away. If people are excited about a game, they often want to get it on release day if possible. The two arn't mutually exclusive, people want to know that game they are rushing out to buy is worth it, and to do this reviews need to be available.
This isn't an issue with reviewers wanting to get reviews out before the game is ready, but with a publisher releasing a game before it is finished. If the net code couldn't be tested internally, why not run a beta? And make sure the game you hand out to reviewers is one that you want reviewed.
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Mark Raymond Gamer; Consumer; Blogger 8 years ago
Anecdotal, I know, but I cancelled my copy after hearing these mixed reviews. I think the reviewers are simply reviewing the code they've been given, but I also think that maybe Bethesda should have put back the embargo until they had a copy of the game ready to give out that was in a better state.

As a consumer, I am just really confused at the moment. Something has gone wrong.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D8 years ago
I'm a bit worried about Brink. Seems to me it's taken at least a year too long to develop, and the market has changed - people simply don't have the money they did when this was greenlighted. PSN being down won't help. I also suspect a number of people will wait for it on pre-owned and buy it then - I'm betting copies of it will start appearing on pre-owned shelves within a week or so. It's not that I don't think it'll be a good game, just that I'm not sure it'll sell as needed.

I hope I'm wrong though.
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Ben Meadows Senior QA Engineer, Thomson Reuters8 years ago
I am disappointed to hear all the bad reviews of Brink. I was really looking forward to buying and playing it. I guess I am glad I waited to buy the game instead of rushing out and getting it on launch day. Perhaps, by the time I get my copy of this game, Steam will have it on sale and Bethesda will have patched it up.

My disappointment aside, I seem to think that a lot of people (myself included) got caught up in the hype surrounding the game. I still remember all the "death of genre" videos made for Brink (not that I believed for a second that Brink would really herald the death of any genre) and for a while I wanted to believe that Brink was going to be different and special. Reading the reviews and watching actual gameplay videos today made me realize that Brink is just another shooter with some cool bells and whistles. Borderlands was more genre blending then Brink is.

Again, still looking forward to playing Brink in the future after steam discounts it and Bethesda patches but I can't help feel a little bad that I let myself get sucked into the hype that I knew was "too good to be true".

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ben Meadows on 10th May 2011 3:07pm

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Kevin Selles8 years ago

If people rely solely on reviews to make purchase decisions, isn’t that a good enough reason to provide a fair review instead of a rushed one? What’s the point of writing a quick review and misinforming readers just to serve those who absolutely must buy the game on the first day?

Those who purchase games the first day don’t care what reviews have got to say. Those who care about reviews will wait until said reviews are published before purchasing (like Ben in the previous comment, for example). To my eyes, publications just want to have their review up the first day in order to get all the hits they possibly can.

Griffin McElroy spent 12 hours with the game (according to a note on his review) supposedly playing with bots and other ‘journalists’. Brink is the kind of game where cooperative/teamwork is an important element. It needs to be played for at least 20 hours on a live environment with real people. It’s actually what makes the game fun.

I 100% agree with the fact that Bethesda should’ve extended the embargo and provided reviewers with bug-free code instead of asking them to take into consideration a future patch, but reviewers should also use their heads and think, “well, maybe I should wait for the patch and spend more time with the game in public matches”.

Terence totally understands where I’m coming from, and it seems like OhmWrecker thinks the same too.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kevin Selles on 10th May 2011 3:31pm

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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game8 years ago
As for reviewers waiting for a patch, if they are supplied with review code, then they expect to be able to review it. It's not like they are taking old preview code. If it was impossible to get the patched content on the disc, they should have made sure it was ready for reviewers to downloadwhen they got the game.
As for having to spend 20 hours, if a member of the public thinks a game isn't fun after 10 hours, they won't give it another 10, so there's no reason reviewers shouldn't reflect this.
The full experience of an online game can't be measured without the community, but at the same time it would be unfair to give a game a bad review based on behavior of random idiots you encounter online. Also, any issues with the servers pre-release are not going to get better due to 1000000 extra players, unless they just haven't added enough yet.
As for people buying games on the first day not caring about reviews, I know on the few occasions I do go to a shop first day, and Brink was a game I was considering doing this for, I stand in the store using my phone to look on Metacritic and read the positives and negatives, due to in the past having games I've been excited by for months end up being dire. The fact that it will be full price means I am more worried about it being rubbish, and although I'd rather draw my own opinion, it's not like a record store with a listening post.
There are plenty of places that do review online post release, several magazines run seperate online reviews post release, and if the patches are good, the metascore will improve, but if no one reviews until after release, there is no warning whatsoever that you should be wary, anyone wanting to buy on the first week or two may as well start basing buying decisions on flashy ads (which ends in dissapointment more often than not), or wait to hear how the people who have bought it thinks it sucks, in a much less objective manner than reviewers.
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David Doel Games Marketing Assistant, AMD8 years ago
As Kevin pointed out, the SOCOM 4 reviews is what came to my mind as well. Games like this, where multi-player is the clear focus, should not be reviewed until it's been on the market long enough for the reviewer to play it with the regular audience. After all, they are supposed to be reviewing the product that the rest of us will potentially be playing.

Similar to Brink, SOCOM 4 had a patch that came out on release day and essentially fixed all the issues that early reviews had complained about pertaining to the online play. So the game that they reviewed was not the same game that people would be playing on launch day. This race to be the first review out doesn't make any sense when it comes at the expense of credibility.
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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online8 years ago
@Andrew: Ten hours is a good amount of time to put into a game to form a solid opinion. But I understand that some people are playing online games for a much shorter time before writing a review. That's not right. Also, what about an MMO? You won't be able to describe, say, the raid endgame of WoW after even 20 hours as you're still leveling your character up. And believe me, questing and leveling *is* a completely different experience compared to the max level gameplay.
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Antonio Willybiro Managing Director, Awillys Ltd8 years ago
I will review it when I get my hands on it this Friday.
I look at it from the eyes of someone willing to stimulate a competitive scene around the game. Hopefully i am not too disappointed in the end1
I'll keep you posted.
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Alex Marin Business Manager 8 years ago
I still will buy it on release (europe). I think it is going to be a great experience as I love FPS close teamwork and also the agility most characters seem to have
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